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Proposed criminal justice complex draws 5 bidders

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Five groups of developers have responded to Indianapolis' call for candidates to build a new criminal justice complex.

The groups, whom city officials would not identify, have national and international experience and have worked on similar facilities, Mayor Greg Ballard's spokesman Marc Lotter said. The deadline for responding to the city's request for qualifications was Tuesday.

A review team of city and county officials, plus private-sector advisers, will narrow the field by sometime this spring, Lotter said.

Ballard and local law enforcement officials want to relocate and consolidate county jails, criminal courts and other related functions from disparate locations in the southeast quadrant of downtown. That could free up valuable real estate for development, as well as office space in the cramped City-County Building.

A recent market survey identified land near Indianapolis International Airport as the leading site, but the location is drawing criticism from judges, lawyers and residents.

The complex would require as much as 35 acres of land and add 1,000 jail beds and 30 new courtrooms. Lotter said the location will be chosen in time to present it to the finalist bidders, who will then be asked to draw up specific plans.

Ballard's office is meeting with lawyers, judges and other stakeholders to discuss their concerns and potential sites for the complex.

City-County Council President Maggie Lewis said she has been inundated with calls from people concerned about not having a centralized, downtown location for courts and related services, as well as from west-side residents who don't want jails in their area. She's trying to organize town hall meetings on the topic for March.

The developers who responded to the city's request also were asked to discuss scenarios for financing the project. The complex is expected to cost $200 million to $400 million — or more. Lotter said city officials aren't talking about the cost because they hope competition from the private sector will drive it down.

On that point, Lotter mentioned advantages of the airport site.

“We already own the property. It’s already off the tax rolls. Utilities are already out there in abundance," he said. "All of that can come into play to help drive down the cost."
 

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